A documentary filmmaker and women’s rights activist, Mahnaz Mohammadi began serving a five-year prison sentence in Evin Prison in Tehran on June 7, 2014, on charges of “assembly and collusion against national security” and “propaganda against the state,” according to news reports.
On June 26, 2011, she was arrested by agents from the IRGC Intelligence Unit at her home, and was kept in IRGC’s Ward 2-A at Evin Prison before being released on bail on July 27, 2011, according to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. She was tried in October 2012 and sentenced to five years in prison, which an appeals court later upheld.
Before she was imprisoned, Mohammadi told the ICHRI that her documentary, “We Are Half of the Iranian Population,” was one of the reasons for the charge of “propaganda against the state.” The documentary is about women discussing the 2009 presidential election.
Mohammadi also said in various interviews before going to prison that she was accused of “making a film for BBC Persian network.” She denied ever working with the BBC and said none of her films had ever been broadcast on the BBC.
Iran has waged a campaign against the BBC in recent years, jamming its broadcasts in Iran and accusing its staff of “sexual assault, drug trafficking, and criminal financial behavior,” according to the BBC. Several BBC staff members have been detained or harassed in recent years.
Mohammadi was also arrested on July 30, 2009, when she, the Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi, and a group of other documentarians gathered at a memorial service at the grave of Neda Agha Soltan, the young woman shot and killed during the violent crackdown on post-election protests in 2009. Mohammadi was released the next day.
Mahnaz Mohammadi is known for her 2006 film Travelogue, in which she interviews train passengers about why they are leaving Iran, as well as Ephemeral Marriage, released in 2011, and Crossing the Line, in 2012.